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September 12, 2004

Web Essentials cleared for take off. Cabin crew arm doors and cross check

Just on a year ago, for reasons already shrouded in the mists of [internet] time, I ran a number of workshops in Sydney and Melbourne based on westciv's popular self paced courses in CSS and HTML. In fairness, Stuart Murdoch, down in Melbourne got one organised down there, and it sort of went from there.

We ran the first in Melbourne in October last year, followed by three in Sydney in November and December. I got the sense that there was some seriously pent up interest in web standards development out there in Australia.

Two of those who attended were Russ Weakley and Peter Ferminger. Through the Web Standards Group (which given had been involved with WaSP and web standards one way or another since about 1998 I had ironically never heard of) a Sydney based, world wide standards advocacy and "self help" group, Russ and Peter had helped promote the workshops.

In December I spoke on The past present and future of web standards at the WSG's end of year meeting. The presentation formed the basis of my relatively recent article on the future of web standards that ended up being slashdotted, run at the Sydney Morning Herald online and generating a lot of noise all over the place.

After that meeting, Russ, Peter and I, all of whom suffer from an excess of optimism and enthusiasm from time to time, talked about the possibility of a web standards conference in Sydney, and by early January it was a done deal. Somehow even Maxine, who suffers from an excess of common sense thought it was an OK idea.

Early on, we felt that to really get people interested some headline speakers from overseas would be needed. Surprisingly, the people we approached seemed very interested right from the get go. Jeffrey Zeldman almost made it, but the timing of his and his wife's first child almost to the minute of our conference meant that sadly was not possible. Never fear, you never know what next year holds.

Doug Bowman, Joe Clark and Dave Shea all jumped at the chance. We felt their mixture of youth, experience, and current "IT" status would make for a great conference.

Australia is a funny old country. One the one hand we punch well above our weight in many fields (not only sport, where Australia came away with more Gold medals than any country other than the US, Russia and China, and with a broader spread of medals than any country, equal to the US, but in science and technology, the arts, and many other fields.) On the other hand, our "cultural cringe", a term used in Australia to describe our sense of inferiority in many fields means that we often feel that if something is from "overseas" it is better. As a consequence, we tend to overlook just how much of a player Australia is in the wider world.

In terms of web standards, Russ Weakley [speaking at the conference] contributes to all manner of blogs and online forums, and his ListTutorial, SelectTutorial, and other online resources at MaxDesign are recognized world wide.
The Web Standards Group has members all over the world, and frequent, well attended meetings (up to 50 attendees) in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Westciv surely is one of the most committed companies going around when it comes to web standards training and software (if I do say so myself). On top of our software, courses, tutorials, guides, articles, and compatibility info, Maxine and I have written hundreds of thousands of words in print and online on web standards and development.

The Australian Disabilities Discrimination act, makes it unlawful for a person who provides goods, facilities or services to discriminate on the grounds of disability and applies to both the terms and conditions and the manner of provision. So you must by law in Australia provide access to all the services of your site to people regardless of disability. You can't just say (as one recent major bank's representative said to me recently) "no one is going to sue us, and besides, blind people can just phone us." No dice guys. The DDA is no toothless tiger, already the basis for a successful action by Bruce Maguire (speaking at the conference) against SOCOG (the Sydney Olympics organizing committee.)
By the way, do a google search for SOCOG. Note that the first hits are actually about this legal action.

Australia is "chock a block" full of designers, like Cameron Adams [aka "the man in blue"] and Design companies like Webboy and GlassOnion who develop great standards based sites.
Australia's own Dean Jackson [also speaking at the conference] is the editor of the W3C's SVG recommendations and chair of the Web Applications workshop.

Now Maxine, Russ, Peter and I hope to help cement Australia's place at the forefront of standards based development, by putting on the best web development conference ever, and raise the bar for future conferences where ever they may be held.
We are quite literally astounded with the interest shown. This is a big country (flying from Perth to Sydney for instance takes about 5 hours) and yet we have people coming from every State and Territory of Australia, as well as New Zealand and even as far as Japan.

If you are anywhere near Sydney, and miss this, you will kick yourself. We are aiming for a show people will be talking about for years to come.
Do yourself a favour, and signup. You won't regret it. But you may just regret not coming.

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Comments

Hey John, thanks for the mention, kinda fun seeing one's name on a site other than your own!

Drop us a line after web essentials is over, sadly, I won't be coming up this year, well done on getting it all off the ground.

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